Story by RUBY KEARCE
The Walton County Economic Development Alliance (WCEDA) met for their monthly meeting Wednesday, Oct. 5, in the conference room at the Walton County Administration Building.
Walton County Human Resource Director Nathan Kervin approached the board with a job description for the Economic Development Alliance (EDA) Executive Director’s position. This description will be posted on Walton County’s website until the position has been filled. Kervin will review the applications to highlight candidates with proper qualifications and bring applicants forward for further review at the next meeting. A motion was made to approve of the job description with the added verbiage of “Certified Economic Developer.”
Paxton Mayor Ann Sexton was first in rotation for city updates, and she announced that Paxton has received the sub-grant agreement for the Senior Citizens’ Center and was scheduled to meet with the team on Tuesday, Oct. 18, to kick off the project. Paxton also received a $135,000 grant from Northwest Florida Water Management District for water meter replacements. Funding for the health clinic was obtained, and the project should be started soon. Sexton also thanked the alliance for their help with the Bobby Kemp Day Festival.
Freeport Mayor Russ Barley began his update by stating that land has been cleared near Owl’s Head Farms for approximately 300 apartments and crews are almost ready to start building, Otto’s Carwash has also cleared land, obtained a permit and will start building soon. The Mayor’s Ball, on Oct. 15, was sold out, with over 250 tickets sold, surpassing last year’s 120 tickets sold. Profits from The Mayor’s Ball will go to families in need, to buy gifts and food during the holidays. Freeport has also been collecting items for hurricane relief. Barley ended his announcements with Freeport’s Annual Bay Fest, to be held the first Saturday of November (Nov. 5, 2022). This year’s event will feature a kid zone, live music, food, and vendors.
DeFuniak Springs Mayor Bob Campbell announced that there are talks of considerable development in the northwest corner of DeFuniak Springs. He will share the project with the alliance once the deal for the 97 acres has officially closed. Bay Springs, the development next to Zaxby’s restaurant, is nearing its groundbreaking. Also, the owners of the Best Western are attempting to buy the land adjacent to them in order to build a Hampton Inn, with the same driveway used for both. City Hall’s recent move has sparked some confusion amongst residents, and Campbell is working hard to develop more signage, as well as more organization at the new city hall campus. Campbell stated that everything is inside the larger building and that nothing has yet been placed in the smaller building in the front of the campus.
Walton County School Superintendent Russell Hughes discussed the recent active shooter drill, stating that the goal is to be prepared. Hughes also shared 2022/23 stats with WCEDA. The largest school in Walton County is Freeport Elementary. South Walton High is the largest high school, and Emerald Coast Middle is the largest middle school. The school board is still looking for a construction technology teacher as well as still seeking bus drivers. The new plumbing program at Emerald Coast Technical College was approved.
In other business, the alliance discussed and approved the budget for fiscal year 2022/23.